There is no doubt that the church has been marginalised as secularisation has advanced in society. A major reason for this has been its own silence on the very issues which affect the lives of people at a local level. Thus the perception of the man in the street is that the church lives in its own ‘spiritual bubble’, has nothing to say because it does not care.
Currently in Scotland the only exceptions to this ‘head in the sand’ apathy would seem to be same sex marriage where the national church is now hopelessly divided, world poverty, which everyone is agreed should be ended, and of course the need to raise money for the replacement of the church roof !
When I talk to individual Christians, only a tiny minority would appear to have any views about anything other than the weather and their own personal wealth, health and wellbeing.
Do our local churches, their leaders and followers care about the very real issues which affect ordinary people like unemployment, the paralysis of our local government and the effects of austerity?
Are the local newspapers being flooded weekly with letters from local Christians speaking up for Jesus on local issues? Are our local church leaders using the power of the web, Facebook and Twitter to engage with society on key contemporary issues or to simply promote themselves? Sadly it appears that Christians are too busy, too lazy, too self-absorbed or too scared to speak up for the values of Christ these days.
Who needs strident secularists when the church is doing an excellent job marginalising itself. Unfortunately things will continue unchanged in our local communities unless and until individual Christians and their leaders wake up and smell the coffee!
The Bible has a very different message from this present reality. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Followers of Jesus are commanded to be salt and light in their communities. Jesus has not called his 21st century disciples to live disconnected lives inside the ‘spiritual bubble’. Thus for Christians, silence on the day to day issues which affect the lives of ordinary people is not an option.
Finally, ordinary people do want Christians to speak up about issues affecting their locality. Ministers, Pastors, elders and deacons are still recognised as individuals who in the distant past held and publically expressed distinctive views which were welcomed and which counted.
It’s time for Christians to stand up and become the salt which savours, and the light which truly illuminates before it is too late.